A patrolling British Warrior armoured fighting vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The six soldiers who had been aboard are missing and, curiously, presumed dead. The attack seems to illustrate the awkward point all sides to this war are in as they wait for Western forces to withdraw.
The six British soldiers are missing, so why are they being presumed dead? What possible use would the Taliban have for carting away six dead bodies? Why haul away dead bodies? It takes a fair bit of effort by several people to spirit away six bodies before the cavalry arrives.
Why? Well, if you're the insurgents and you think you're winning, there are several reasons to make off with enemy bodies at this stage of the conflict. Handing the Brits their single most deadly loss when they're already negotiating routes to leave the country is a statement of power. The Talibs can do this after 10-years of fighting. It also fuels the idea that who wants to be the last to die when the war is being wrapped up anyway?
And then there's the "what if" factor. What if those missing soldiers weren't dead? What if they're captives? It's vital in this sort of conflict that, when you're about to leave, you exit with all your people accounted for. Otherwise you have the whole MIA/POW problem that plagued the Americans after they left Vietnam.
But Brit prime minister David Cameron was quick to accept the "missing, presumed dead" assessment. I suppose the "dead" part was more politically expedient than having British voters dwelling on the prospect of six of their young men having fallen captive to the Talibs at this late stage of the war.
I'm sure the last thing Cameron wants right now is to have an ongoing MIA/POW problem when this is all over. The Taliban have sent him a message. They've made him the only prime minister to leave British soldiers, dead or alive, unaccounted for in Afghanistan and they'll probably try to do it again. That brings enormous pressure on Cameron to rein in his forces and keep them safely in garrison until they depart the country. If this incident doesn't accomplish that, the next one or two probably will.
Remember these are tactics the mujaheddin used to powerful effect against the Soviets during their occupation. Now, it seems, it's our turn.